Citizen Philosophers


Did you know Brazilians are required to study philosophy?

In Ribeiro’s neighborhood, children play football or do capoeira, pray in Pentecostal Churches or worship African gods. Many are involved with drugs; “every year we lose students to crack,” she tells me. And they study philosophy two hours each week because of a 2008 law that mandates philosophy instruction in all Brazilian high schools. Nine million teenagers now take philosophy classes for three years.

. . .

That’s not surprising, considering that the 2008 law is above all a political project. In 1971 the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985 eliminated philosophy from high schools. Teachers, professors in departments of education, and political activists championed its return, while most academic philosophers were either indifferent or suspicious. The dictatorship seems to have understood philosophy’s potential to create engaged citizens; it replaced philosophy with a course on Moral and Civic Education and one on Brazil’s Social and Political Organization (“to inculcate good manners and patriotic values and to justify the political order of the generals,” one UFBA colleague recalls from his high school days).

The official rationale for the 2008 law is that philosophy “is necessary for the exercise of citizenship.” The law—the world’s largest-scale attempt to bring philosophy into the public sphere—thus represents an experiment in democracy. Among teachers at least, many share Ribeiro’s hope that philosophy will provide a path to greater civic participation and equality. Can it do even more? Can it teach students to question and challenge the foundations of society itself?

Boston Review

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

Never-Before-Published Hannah Arendt on What Freedom and Revolution Really Mean


Many will be interested in this “Never-Before-Published Hannah Arendt on What Freedom and Revolution Really Mean.”

In the 1960s, some years after the publication of her book On Revolution, Hannah Arendt lived in a world of revolutionary events, to which she was particularly sensitive. Such events included the expulsion of Krushchev in the Soviet Union; the construction of the Berlin Wall dividing Germany into two states; the Cuban missile crisis; the so-called “Quiet Revolution” in Canada, nationalistic in character; the Civil Rights movements here and abroad; anti-war protests, some of which were deadly, here and in Europe; military coups in South Korea, Vietnam, and Greece; Pope John XXIII’s profoundly revolutionary Second Vatican Council; the horror of the Cultural Revolution in China; the scientific revolution best known as “the conquest of space”; and the ongoing decolonization and independence battles in formerly imperial domains.

This manuscript, never before published, is marked “A Lecture” and dated “1966-67.” Where and when it was delivered, or if it was delivered, is not known. The manuscript seems too long for a single lecture. It might have been given at the University of Chicago where Arendt was teaching at the time in the School on Social Thought. Or it could have been at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, which Arendt agreed to join in 1967, primarily to be in New York, close to her husband, Heinrich Bluecher, who was unwell. The where and when of the lecture have not been confirmed, though extant records have been thoroughly searched.

Literary Hub

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

Dead Dogs


What do pit bull bans tell us about the freedom-versus-security dilemma?

In legal rationales, realities are created. Old inequalities and radical discrimination are repackaged in unexpected forms. In breed-specific legislation, the taint and incapacity of the disenfranchised live on. At a time when our government is labeling certain persons as threats—alleged terrorists, enemy aliens, illegal immigrants, ordinary people who want to get on airplanes—we need to ask how the seizure and destruction of dogs deemed contraband becomes a medium for the intimidation and debasement of humans in turn. Who should suffer deprivation without redress so that we can live in reasonable—safe and secure—consensus? And who gets to decide?

Boston Review

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

Texting Toward Utopia


Many believe the Internet leads to democratization of authoritarian regimes (see media coverage of the Arab Spring). Evgeny Morozov stands against such technological determinism.

[D]rawing conclusions about the democratizing nature of the Internet may still be premature. The major challenge in understanding the relationship between democracy and the Internet— aside from developing good measures of democratic improvement—has been to distinguish cause and effect. That is always hard, but it is especially difficult in this case because the grandiose promise of technological determinism—the idealistic belief in the Internet’s transformative power—has often blinded even the most sober analysts.

Boston Review

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

Choosing to Be Childless Comes at a Cost


Do you discriminate against those who choose not to have children?

“Our data suggests that not having children is seen not only as atypical or surprising, but also as morally wrong.”

Pacific Standard

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

After the Fall of North Korea


What happens when the North Korean regime falls? In this presentation from the U.S. Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, the international response to such an event is explored:

The purpose of this hypothetical case study/table top exercise (TTX) on North Korea is to teach the participants/students how difficult stability operations are in the immediate aftermath of a major conflict.  The learning objectives are many: to figure out what U.S. foreign policy should be in the wake of a major conflict on the Korean Peninsula; proceeding from that, how to prioritize meeting the immediate and long-term needs of the populace; and how to manage Allies and rivals (China and Russia) competing in the same space, under South Korea’s lead.

PKSOI-TRENDS Global Case Study: After the Fall of North Korea: A Post-Conflict Stability Operations Exercise

Image: U.S. Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute

Protean Miniatures: The Adaptability and Sustainability of Flash Fiction


What is flash fiction? Is it art? And why is it becoming so popular?

There is something a bit brazen about the flash form, something redolent of legerdemain and prestidigitation, a gumption, moxie, and chutzpah that is, in the best way, polarizing. One flash piece might “get through” to one reader, while it bounces off another with little effect. Some say this makes flash a shallow and subjective genre, just another example of consumer niche-ification and ultra-specificity. Perhaps, but perhaps that’s why the genre is flourishing. Not because it’s easy, but because reaching anyone, connecting to anyone, finding the time to reach or connect to anyone, is increasingly hard.

The Los Angeles Review of Books

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper